Every Life


Where were they tonight, I wonder?

The people praying outside Terri Schiavo’s hospice. The people canting in the halls of Congress. The people shouting about every life being worth saving, always, no matter what that life might entail. Where were they tonight? All those preachers, all those pundits, all those people who told us that we were a Christian nation, that we had to save this woman or lose our souls: Where were they tonight?

Not outside a Georgia prison, that’s for goddamn sure.

Which was predictable, really. People who demanded intervention in the Schiavo case are the same people who oppose abortion rights because they fetishize infants, because they have this idea that there’s deserving and undeserving and they get to decide based on their being truly virtuous. Innocent white babies and women who can’t talk back are easier to put your moral weight behind, because they deserve to have a chance, whereas you could make a convincing argument that those on death row have biffed theirs and don’t merit our consideration.

It’s nonsense, of course, not only from a policy standpoint but theologically, too, since everybody insists on going there: Death is the only thing everybody gets, sooner or later, deserving or undeserving. Vengeance is mine so suck it up, sayeth the Lord, and let me handle this shit.

The argument against capital punishment is not, of course, about death at all. It’s not about who deserves to die. The argument is that no one deserves to kill, especially not from this distance, from this angle, from all the way behind a ballot box. Everybody’s got a thing they would strangle someone with their bare hands for, and the point isn’t to pretend those things don’t exist or to say we aren’t like that. The point is not to put that part of us in charge.

One could argue that part of us has been driving for a while now, and so long as the voices raised in favor of every life show up at some deathbeds but not others, I don’t see anybody else taking the wheel.


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